Don’t Worry (This Week’s Movies)

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Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill: Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot (courtesy Amazon Studios)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald and Seattle Weekly, and etc.

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot. “The role is right in Phoenix’s wheelhouse, and he roots through the various sides of Callahan’s personality, by turns obnoxious, terrified, buoyant, and — especially in the scenes where he goes around making amends to people he’s offended in the past — movingly heartfelt.” (Weekly link here.)

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Movie Diary 7/18/2018

More from the Odesa Film Festival, albeit a day of official jury-related watching:

Volcano (Roman Bondarchuk, 2018). A Ukrainian film (but not in the competition for which I’m on the jury) about a military inspector whose mission goes awry. Finding himself in small-town life, he undergoes a series of mysterious attacks and adventures. It’s hard to tell whether this film is intentionally rife with logical gaps and inexplicable behaviors, as a way of creating the hero’s disorienting state of being, or, you know, unintentionally rife with them. Either way, it’s a sometimes frustrating experience, and leading man Serhiy Stepansky – a sound designer making his acting debut – makes for a blank presence at the center. Whatever its shortcomings, the film is certainly full of striking imagery and some arresting moments.

Shorts program #1 (Ukrainian competition). I will decline to comment specifically on these for now, except to say that they are very bright prospects in this first collection of short films, including a couple of extremely funny comedies.

Delta (Oleksandr Techynskyi, 2017). Another jury film, a documentary set in the watery delta country of Odesa.

Movie Diary 7/17/2018

More from the Odesa Film Festival:

Years of Youth (Oleksii Mishuryn, 1958). The festival is doing a series of Ukrainian musical comedies from the Soviet era, and I really wanted to see at least one of these, time permitting. This was the one. It’s a trip, with gauzy, richly-colored rear-projection stuff and factories that loom in the background like the gleaming skyscrapers of On the Town. The story has echoes of The Major and the Minor, with super-perky Svitlana Zhyvankova, dressed as a boy for a theatrical turn, getting on a train and meeting rail-riding vagabond (but soulful singer) Valerii Rudoi. Both audition for a theatre program in Kiev. Zhyvankova gives the role the energy of a coked-up Debbie Reynolds, and some of the scenes end in syncopated smash cuts that indicate somebody still appreciated Eisenstein.

Tera (Nikon Romanchenko, 2018). A competition film in the category for which I’m on the jury, so no comment here. Debut feature from a young Ukrainian filmmaker.

Woman at War (Benedikt Erlingsson, 2018). A middle-aged woman (bravura performance by Halldora Geirharosdottir) does acts of industrial sabotage in Iceland, but also gets news that she is eligible to adopt a Ukrainian child. A very skillfully made picture that ought to see some success in international release.

 

Movie Diary 7/16/2018

More from the Odesa Film Festival:

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (Terry Gilliam, 2018). It’s been a while since I really liked a Terry Gilliam film, but I liked the first hour or so of this one. Gilliam’s carnivalesque style, with its tastes rooted in the 1960s, is like a letter from a past world; when Adam Driver breaks into an Eddie Cantor routine, you can’t help but wonder what the kids today are going to think of that. But it does have momentum, and Driver and Jonathan Pryce are fully keyed into Gilliam’s mode. The customary third-act issues arise.

Cold War (Pawel Pawlikowski, 2018). From the director of Ida, romance tracked across discrete vignettes through the postwar era, between a Polish music maestro (Tomasz Kot) and his protege (Joanna Kulig). Seen back-to-back at the festival’s main hall, the film’s tightly-bound black-and-white style could not have made a bigger contrast with Gilliam’s brimming fantasia. The comparison favors this film. Two terrific actors, a fascinating jukebox soundtrack, and a gut-punch of an ending.

Movie Diary 7/15/2018

Skyscraper (Rawson Marshall Thurber, 2018). There is no denying it. (full review here.)

I’m at the Odesa Film Festival in Ukraine. (Odesa is how the Ukrainians spell it.) So, a busy week, including:

Wildlife (Paul Dano, 2018). A very formal treatment of a Richard Ford tale, maybe just a little indulgent of the excellent actors, which could be why it feels poky. Smart and thoughtful, though, and for me it almost makes a realist companion piece to Hereditary, especially in its blazing central female role and its attendant go-for-it performance, in this case from Carey Mulligan.

Three Faces (Jafar Panahi, 2018). It would be easy to default to talking about how remarkable it is that Panahi somehow manages to make films while being under arrest, but that would give short shrift to how strong this movie is. Many gentle references to the work of Abbas Kiarostami, and also many amazing people on screen.

Safety Last! (Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor, 1923). Yeah, so this was the movie they showed outside on the Potemkin Steps in Odesa, with live orchestra. It was a gas, folks.

Hero of My Time (Tonya Noyabrova, 2018). I’m on the FIPRESCI jury for best Ukrainian feature, so I’m not making comments about them here. This is a debut feature from the filmmaker.

Septimo Skyscraper (This Week’s Movies)

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Fernando Cardona, En el Septimo Dia/On the Seventh Day (courtesy Cinema Guild)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald and Seattle Weekly, and etc.

Skyscraper. “The movie has such a cheerful sense of its own absurdity, while not for a moment undercutting its legitimate thrills, that it succeeds almost completely at the summer-blockbuster game.”

En el Séptimo Día (On the Seventh Day). “Writer/director Jim McKay is clearly gifted at capturing authentic places and faces, and that’s what gives On the Seventh Day its everyday enchantment.”

For Scarecrow Video’s blog, another Elvis-related post. Read it here.

Movie Diary 7/9/2018

En el Séptimo Día/On the Seventh Day (Jim McKay, 2018). An indie beaut, about a group of Mexican men (apparently undocumented) who play soccer in Brooklyn and try to juggle work situations, in which they are powerless. Along with its suspenseful plot concerns, the film has a wonderful sense of streets and parks, and it’s got a strong (first-time) actor at the center, Fernando Cardona; he looks like he’s related to Wes Studi, and acts like it, too. (full review 7/11)